Officials say irrigators along the South Umpqua River could face restrictions on water supplies as early as this month.
Flows in the river are expected to be below average or well below average this summer, the Roseburg News-Review reported.
The South Umpqua is a tributary of the Umpqua River that relies mainly on rainfall and often runs low in the summer, but restrictions in low-water years typically don’t kick in until August.
The North Umpqua tributary benefits from snowmelt at higher elevations.
Low snowfall and an early melt across the state have raised concern about irrigation supplies.
In the Klamath Basin, a drought has been declared, and some irrigators are facing potential water cutoffs.
In Eastern Oregon, the Vale and Warmsprings irrigation districts, which usually operate independently, said this week they would plan together so they could better conserve water for the summer.
The state’s two U.S. senators have called on the U.S. Agriculture Department to allow emergency grazing of cattle on federal lands in much of the southeastern part of Oregon.
In the Umpqua Basin, rainfall so far this year has also been below overage.
“Anything that shows up in the rain bucket would look good right now, but we’re way behind the curve,” said Dave Williams, watermaster for Douglas County.
Over the past 40 years, the earliest that water rights in the South Umpqua watershed were cut off was on June 20, 1974, on a tributary. The area has seen three July shutoffs in those decades.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to see some effects from low stream levels,” said Tim Bare, manager of the K-Bar Ranches operated by the Umpqua Indian Development Corp. “It’s really hard to know exactly what’s going to happen.”
Felix (Kyung) Seo